Shale Gas in Europe: a Completely Different Ballgame
North American experience does provide guidelines
For many of the participants in Warsaw, Poland at Shale Gas World 2010, the question was no longer “Can North America’s shale gas revolution be replicated in Europe?” but rather “How can we apply what we know in the New World on the Old Continent?”
In an intimate workshop setting led by Schlumberger, one day before the official start of the conference (which took place on 1-2 December), those involved in the process of producing shale gas offered their insights on how North American knowledge and experience could help shale gas development in Europe.
Doug Bentley, European Unconventional Resource Manager at Schlumberger was one of those with knowledge to share. He said he’d been in Poland since September and offered his appraisal of where shale gas sits today.
“Exploration is where we are in Europe today,” said Bentley, who explained it was about challenging completions, appraisal, and then production. He offered his overview of the development process.
He continued, “These are massive shales and these are everywhere but are not all productive by any means, so the challenge is to find those and make some money doing it.”
Bentley spoke about reservoir quality, and gathering information on the rock from experiences in North America.
“When we look at shales there are six different ones,” he explained, listing quartz based, and carbonate. “These are all productive. They could have the same facies, but are not necessarily productive. Completion quality can be different. Achieving efficiencies, logistics and environmental concerns are things we should understand early,” he said.
Bentley said there was a need to apply the right technology. “But it’s more about integration of the data. There are many ways to find this out but we must integrate facies information with reservoir quality and completion quality.”
He broke down shale gas exploration into three phases: explore, appraise, and design.
“Looking at the data that’s out there with petroleum systems, ultimately you’re going to have to drill a pilot hole and validate it with existing shales that are out there today. You need to understand clays, stress, etc.”
When speaking of understanding completion quality, Bentley said, “Take the right types of fluids and mix and match with the type of rock, to be determined through microseismic monitoring.”
He listed reservoir quality, understanding porosities and at end of day trying to maintain conductivity. “If you don’t get contact with the reservoir, you won’t produce. If you do it right you can see a big difference in production.”
He added, “In Europe it gets even harder because in some places it is 300 meters thick. These are the challenges.”
In terms of drilling and completion efficiency, he said: “If you look at some of the history of the Barnett it used to be 30 days, but now they’re moving the well within 12 days.” Bentley said that Lane Energy’s drilling experiences could offer many clues.
“Environment is something we’re all going to have to deal with in Europe - water management and 100% recycling of water,” stated Bentley. “We’re going to have to do something with the flowback water.”
He also spoke of the chemistry aspects, like knowing what the chemical reactions were that occur with the reservoir: “Understanding what you’re putting down there and what you’re flowing back. Sometimes we have chemical reactions that we can’t control.”
George Waters, Shale Completions Technical Manager at Schlumberger spoke about Optimizing Shale Completions and pledged to speak about the key drivers involved.
First he addressed ultra low permeability fracturing, saying, “Outside of North America there’s not a culture of hydraulic fracturing; these wells will not produce without it, although there are some exceptions.”
He noted that in North America, hydraulic fracturing involved pumping large volumes of fluid and proppant.
“We have the water resources, sand and the equipment to do it,” explained Waters. “Those resources do not necessarily reside outside of North America, so we need to look at innovative solutions in other places where our costs are significantly higher.”
He said that in America the average amount of water used for a horizontal well could amount to 5 million gallons of water, and that many times that involved transferring water to a drilling site; Waters showed a photograph of water that had been channeled to one.
He admitted, “Doing this is not easy - you have to source the water, manage it on the surface, dispose of it and it can be a large headache. This may drive our innovation outside of North America.”
He also spoke about “lateral landing guidelines.”
“I like focusing on the lowest stress rocks,” Waters explained. “You end up with three potential optimal landing points. You use hydraulic fracturing models to estimate the heights – they can give you an idea of what to expect for height growth.”
Waters reiterated that he thought innovation would come from outside of North America.
“There we’re successful because those wells are so cheap to drill, at 2-4m. In Europe, were going to have to make better wells.”
Andrew Jennings, Unconventional Resource Manager at Schlumberger business unit WesternGeco, addressed workshop participants on Seismic: the Key for Large Scale Evaluation.
He said, “We know that looking at the European shale gas plays in the early days, the data is fairly sparse. Shale gas areas are not associated with conventional oil & gas plays. This leads us to the need for gross geologic understanding and subsequent defining of target areas.
“Costs are likely to be higher than in the US,” added Jennings. “Overall the industry will be looking for the best technology to enable success in Europe.”
He emphasized the value of accurate data in decision making, listing three valuable criteria: information must be relevant, material and economic.
“Seismic info is relevant,” he contended, “providing the ability to make decisions that would otherwise not be able to be made.”
Jennings called the shooting of seismic a “critical component” of reducing cost and achieving success in shale gas production.